Posted 06 March 2023
Mention Heather Boa
Interview by Lyla Maeve

Psychology grad turned stylist and designer, Heather Boa is proof that it’s never too late to be a creative

For Leeds-based stylist and fashion designer Heather Boa, it took a bit of bouncing between disciplines for them to find their calling. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, it was during their year abroad in the Netherlands that they discovered they wanted to work in fashion. Many roles in the industry later, Heather is now making a name for themselves as a stylist and designer, inspired by the retrofuturist looks of Leeds’ queer nightlife scene. Having recently landed their first professional styling gig with Lazy Oaf, here, Heather talks battling imposter syndrome as an industry newcomer, as well as why you shouldn’t stop yourself from making changes if what you’re currently doing doesn’t feel right.

Heather Boa

Heather Boa

Job Title

Stylist, Fashion Designer and DJ



Selected Clients

Leeds Rag Fashion Show, Lazy Oaf

Place of Study

BS Psychology, University of Leeds (2013–2017)
MA Global Fashion Management, University of Leeds (2021–2022)

Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I am a freelance stylist and self-taught fashion designer. I also DJ.

As a stylist, I utilise my creativity and knowledge of fashion trends to produce looks that meet creative briefs. I arrange clothing loans from brands, assist on photoshoots and work with marketing teams to produce photography and videography that matches creative briefs.

I also design and make garments from my home workshop. I work on personal projects – making clothing for events and photoshoots for myself – as well as customs. I’ve been commissioned by a friend to design a wedding guest outfit, and am currently working on a small collection which will soon be available for purchase at Boteca in Leeds.

As a DJ I mostly play techno, acid techno, trance and lots of fun club edits. Queer spaces in particular have helped me de-stress and reconnect with my body. There is such a feeling of welcoming, togetherness and acceptance that I haven’t really found in other (more mainstream) spaces, which has helped me get to the level of confidence I’ve had with my creative career. I have a some radio mixes out on Soundcloud and have played at Old Red Bus Station and house parties in Leeds, with several gigs later this year.

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Spiked corset top made and modelled by Heather

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Look made and styled for Qwear Fashion

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
Fashion has always been my form of self-expression. As a queer creative and music lover, I take a lot of inspiration from the vibrant queer nightlife scene. These safe spaces have allowed me to grow in confidence expressing myself and learn how to communicate my perspective through fashion. I also take inspiration from the punk scene, retrofuturism, video games and dolls – and I always try to bring an element of otherworldliness to my looks.

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
For styling, having a good eye for detail, understanding of fashion and trends, and being able to confidently communicate your vision and perspective is important, as is being resilient and being able to self-promote your work. The last two can be much harder to do than they sound – in such a competitive industry, it can be really anxiety-inducing to share your work, especially when imposter syndrome kicks in. Putting your art out there is such a vulnerable thing to do, so to anyone doing it: you’re doing amazing!

For fashion design, sewing skills are essential, as is being able to create – or at least follow – a pattern. I took a basic sewing skills evening class a few years ago, and after that it has just been a case of practicing and pushing myself to make things that challenge my skills and help me grow.

“I took a basic sewing skills evening class, and after that it has been a case of practicing and pushing myself to make things that challenge my skills and help me grow.”

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Bag and boots made and modelled by Heather

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Legwarmers and dress made, styled and modelled by Heather

What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
My favourite projects include the Lazy Oaf shoot, as this was my first opportunity styling on a professional campaign, as well as my personal projects – making outfits to wear to queer nightlife events, and ongoing work related to queer nightlife and fashion. That’s not something I am ready to share details of just yet… so watch this space!

Can you tell us about your experience participating in the Lazy Oaf campaign shoot?
I travelled from Leeds for the photoshoot, so it was an early start to the day for me – I was up at 3:30am to get ready for my 5am train to London. We went into hair and make up and had our own individual photographs taken in our first looks, then some group shots. Throughout the day we also had to record some interview content for Lazy Oaf.

The Lazy Oaf Campaign was my first time styling and starring in a professional shoot, so it’s been a really exciting opportunity. I am really grateful for the opportunity to do what I love with the support and resources of a brand like them.

I also loved meeting the other creatives and learning about them, their own creative practices and projects. I think that the Lazy Oaf team picked a really good group to work together – our visions and skills all complemented each other well and I had a lot of fun. I didn’t know any of the other creatives prior to the shoot, but by the end of the day, I felt that I’d known them much longer than just one day. I’d love to work with them and Lazy Oaf again!

Heather boa stylist creativelivesinprogress taken by mars

Heather in the Lazy Oaf spring campaign shoot, shot by Mars Lawrence

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How I got here

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
I would still consider myself to be at the start of my journey. It took me some time to really figure out what I wanted to do – I did my bachelor’s degree in psychology but, during my year abroad in the Netherlands, I was lucky enough to make friends working within fashion. It helped me learn that a career in fashion was what I wanted; but even then I wasn’t quite sure what exact role I wanted. At the same time, the need for financial stability and job security was a big anxiety for me. I took time to explore different potential roles until I found what I really enjoyed: styling and fashion design.

I think that one thing my journey shows is that, even if it takes you a bit longer, you can still eventually do what you want. So you should never stop yourself from making changes if what you’re currently doing doesn’t feel right – even if it does seem really scary!

“You should never stop yourself from making changes if what you’re currently doing doesn’t feel right – even if it seems scary!”

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Outfit made, styled and modelled by Heather

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How did you go about landing your first clients?
It was a mixture of reaching out to people via social media, having people contact me via Instagram, responding to call-outs and applying for opportunities whenever I see them.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Starting out and getting those first entry-level opportunities is one of the hardest part. It’s very easy to get imposter syndrome – especially in the creative industries – so pushing through that feeling and promoting myself and my work whenever I can has been key.

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful to your work or career, what would they be and why?
Finding and following social media accounts that post about creative opportunities is a great tool for finding work – for example, Assisting Work, Creative Wakefield and Bricks Magazine.

Also, social media – such as Instagram and TikTok – as a tool for self-promotion and connecting with other creatives and your audience.

Vest, bleached and upcycled by Heather
Outfit made, styled and modelled by Heather

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
Social media has been an integral part of being in the creative industry for me.

I think there are pros and cons to this: for example, there is much greater demand and pressure on creatives like myself to be constantly creating and to be able to do so much more. But on the flip side there are the benefits, such as access to a much wider platform to share your work, plus the ability to seek out work and connect with other creatives that share similar or complementary visions, which is so important.

Heather’s studio

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I am not from a background that makes working for free a plausible option for me, so I have another job alongside my creative work to support myself and my practice. I work part-time at a law firm in Leeds as a legal case executive, which provides me some financial stability and has helped to strengthen other transferable skills such as time management, organisation and customer service skills.

A financial tip I have learnt juggling part-time work and a creative career – although I’m not sure I’m the best person to be giving financial advice (haha) – is to always make sure I have a budget plan every month to keep track of my finances, so I don’t accidentally overspend.

Also, I’ve learned to value my time at what it is worth. You shouldn’t undervalue yourself for anyone! I find it really hard to ask for what things are really worth at first, and still struggle. Especially because fast fashion brands can set such low prices, it’s easy to worry that people might think you are over-charging, when you’re actually reflecting the time and effort that goes into it. Fast fashion brands can set these prices due to unsustainable and often unethical business practices, so they do not reflect the value of clothing made by independent designers!

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Be your authentic self and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You will find your people and the right opportunities will come.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Be true to yourself. Work on your resilience and connect with other creatives who you can collaborate with. There is so much power when like-minded creatives work together. Go after every opportunity you can because it can be really hard to secure those first opportunities, so the more proactive you are the more likely it is that you will get an opportunity.

Also, it is really important to take time for yourself. It can be really hard to do, as there is a lot of pressure through social media to be ‘grinding’ constantly – but you can create your best when you are mentally and physically healthy, and it will help you to continue enjoying your practice in the long run!

Mention Heather Boa
Interview by Lyla Maeve